It came from Liberal MP Jane Prentice, who told reporters as she was getting in a car to leave Parliament House: “I think people should stop thinking about themselves and start thinking about the people of Australia.”
Imagine if our elected officials really could stop thinking about themselves. We’d have politicians genuinely working to achieve the best outcomes on policy. A contest of ideas, instead of a contest of alliances, backroom deals and scores to settle.
Unfortunately, that’s not anything close to what we’ve got.
Today, like most days, we’ll be paying the generous salaries of politicians within our governing party to spend their time working the phones, leaking information to journalists, and making deals based on grudges and personal grievances. Every decision made — aside from those from a principled few — will be done according to their own personal interests: for their future prospects in the party; their potential place on the front-bench; and their likelihood of retaining their seat at the next election.
Perhaps it’d all be somewhat palatable could the party point to some tiny piece of policy success, whether it be one you agree with or not. But what’s there to point to? For all the time, energy, negotiation and newspaper columns that went into debating and attempting to understand corporate tax cuts or energy policy, the Turnbull Government has nothing to show for it.
The one big thing that has shifted for Australians is legislating Marriage Equality — and even that couldn’t be sorted in the Parliament, instead it went to an expensive and painful postal vote.
Prentice told reporters she understood there was a petition circulating last night, calling for a leadership spill today, and that there were, at the time, nine signatures on it. She added that she hadn’t signed it, nor physically seen it, before calling for party members to stop thinking about themselves.
Perhaps it’s that Prentice has little to lose.
Prentice is due to lose her seat at the next election, after she lost a preselection battle earlier this year to a local businessman. She has held the safe seat in Western Brisbane since 2010.
At the time of the preselection battle — which was a serious blow for the already tiny number of women in the Liberal Party — Peter Dutton said: “We have a 100 per cent commitment to getting more women into politics, but equally we have a democratic process.” Dutton had written a reference for Prentice.
Australia deserves politicians that can think bigger than themselves.